LONDON – Thousands of people have gathered at anti-racism marches in cities across the UK and Europe including Paris, Copenhagen and Glasgow, protesting the activities of far-right groups and anti-immigration policies.
The annual event which is organized by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) brought together campaigners, civic society and Parliamentarians. At the London protest, speakers included Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP who joined calls from the platform to end ‘institutional racism’ and policies negatively aimed at migrants and ethnic minorities.
The demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam and Athens were arranged to coincide, with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination.
Will Sullivan is Race Equality Officer for the Trades Union Congress (TUC), a federation of trade unions in England and Wales. He told AboutIslam that the TUC is compiling information on the challenges Muslim employees currently face in the workplace.
“The stereotypes that have been created since the war on terror have created all kinds of problems relating to people from the Muslim community getting access to just treatment in the workplace by colleagues and managers. If they work on front line jobs then comments come from members of the public.”
The protests come in a week in which five Muslim MP’s received leaflets calling April 3, “Punish A Muslim Day.” The flyers were also pushed through Muslim homes in London and South Yorkshire. All the incidents are under investigation by the governments counter-terrorism unit.
Sullivan said, “The ‘Punish A Muslim Day’ thing is abhorrent and is part of a general trend since before the Brexit vote including violence against Muslim and other communities.”
Campaign group Hope Not Hate published a report earlier this month “The State of Hate 2018.” Its findings highlight the changing threat and modus operandi of the far right.
“As traditional British far right groups collapse, far right-inspired terrorism is on the rise. Replacing old-fashioned racial nationalism is anti-Muslim hatred,” the report also found.
“Today’s key activists tend to be younger, operate online and have little of the obvious “Nazi” baggage of their predecessors.”
At the London demonstration thousands took to the streets braving freezing weather. Signs held up included those which read ‘Refugees Welcome’ ‘Migration Is Beautiful’ and ‘Hands off Hijab.’
Nahella Ashraf, 46, co-chair of SUTR, Manchester told AboutIslam, her organization has seen a growth in members of the general public taking part in rallies, demos and ‘other events’ countering far right rhetoric and racism.
“Over the past couple of years this event (Stand Up To Racism) has taken on a higher level of importance because people are using the refugee crisis and the increase of attacks against Muslims, in particular Muslim women. All the different blocs marching recognize this as well.”
Diane Abbott MP has called for support from the public to change the tide against prejudice.
“From the shocking rise in hate crime to the unabated growth of the far-right in Europe, there has never been a more important time to oppose racism…march against racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and for a society which treats migrants and refugees with the humanity they deserve.”